Healthy kidneys help the body by removing waste and extra water, and keeping the blood clean and chemically balanced . When the kidneys stop working properly – as is the case when someone has kidney disease – ‘waste’ can build up in the blood and damage the body. Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is when the kidneys gradually stop working . End-stage kidney disease (ESKD) is when the kidneys have totally or almost totally stopped working. People with ESKD must either have regular dialysis (be hooked up to a machine that filters the blood) or have a kidney transplant to stay alive.
ESKD affects Indigenous people when they are much younger than it does among non-Indigenous people. In 2008-2012, almost three-in-five Indigenous people who were diagnosed with kidney disease were younger than 55 years of age (less than one-third of non-Indigenous people were younger than 55 years of age) (Figure 1) [Derived from ].
Figure 1. Rates (per million) of end-stage kidney disease for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, by age-group (years) 2008-2012
Source: Derived from ANZDATA, 2013 , ABS, 2010 , ABS, 2001, ABS, 2009 Note: These rates show how many Indigenous and non-Indigenous people had ESKD per million. This means, for example, that for every 1 million Indigenous people aged 55-64 years, over 2,000 had ESKD in 2008-2012.
Dialysis was the most common reason for Indigenous people to be admitted to hospital in 2011-12 . Almost one-half of all Indigenous hospital admissions were for dialysis. Indigenous people were admitted to hospital for dialysis around 12 times more often than were other Australians.
Some people need to have dialysis every day. Dialysis can be undertaken at hospitals, special out-of-hospital satellite units, or in the home (which requires special equipment and training for the patient and their carers, and is very costly) . Accessing dialysis can sometimes be very difficult for Indigenous people who live in rural or remote locations and they may have to travel to receive treatment.
In 2006-2010, Indigenous people were almost four times more likely to die from kidney disease than were non-Indigenous people .